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Pfizer irked after Belgian politician publishes COVID-19 vaccine prices

BRUSSELS, Dec 18 (Reuters) - U.S. drugmaker Pfizer complained of a breach of confidentiality after a politician in Belgium published on Thursday the price per dose of COVID-19 vaccines ordered by the country, according to a Belgian newspaper.

Belgian secretary of state Eva De Bleeker tweeted a table with the number of doses and price per dose of each vaccine, after a 30-hour debate on the Belgian budget in parliament. She subsequently deleted her tweet.

Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, whose COVID-19 vaccine is the first to have been approved by Western regulators, is among suppliers to the European Union, including Belgium.

Elisabeth Schraepen, the U.S. drugmaker’s spokeswoman for the Benelux region, told Belgian daily Le Soir that the publication of the details was a breach of confidentiality.

“These prices are covered by a confidentiality clause in the contract with the European Commission,” Schraepen said.

The table briefly published by De Bleeker showed the Belgian government paid 12 euros ($14.7) per dose to buy about five million shots of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

Sources familiar with the matter have told Reuters the EU agreed to pay 15.50 euros ($18.34) per dose for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

The Belgian price does not factor in unrefundable downpayments of hundreds of millions of euros that the EU has made to many vaccine makers to secure their shots, one EU official told Reuters.

EU governments pay the remainder when they order their doses.

“We can’t say anything about this case, everything about vaccines and prices are covered by confidentiality clauses, in the interests of society and also in the interests of negotiations ongoing,” a spokesman for the European Commission told a daily news briefing on Friday.

The General Association of the Medicines Industry of Belgium said the leak was a “grave violation of the confidentiality clause and hurts the government itself.”

The European Medicines Agency has said a panel of experts will convene on Dec. 21 to evaluate the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and inoculations in the EU could start on Dec. 27.

$1 = 0.8161 euros Reporting by Marine Strauss, Foo Yun Chee and Francesco Guarascio; Editing by Mark Potter

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